Next morning I went out to see the pictures, and as I was returning to my lodging for dinner a blackguardly-looking fellow came up and ordered me, on the part of the Government, to continue my journey on the day following at latest.
"Very good," said I, and the fellow went away.
"Who is that man?" I said to the landlord.
"A spy; and the Government dares to send such a fellow to me?"
"The 'borgello' must have sent him."
"Then the 'borgello' is the Governor of Modena--the infamous wretch!"
"Hush! hush! all the best families speak to him in the street."
"Then the best people are very low here, I suppose?"
"Not more than anywhere else. He is the manager of the opera house, and the greatest noblemen dine with him and thus secure his favour."
"It's incredible! But why should the high and mighty borgello send me away from Modena?"
"I don't know, but do you take my advice and go and speak to him; you will find him a fine fellow."
Instead of going to see this b. . . . I called on the Abbe Testa Grossa, whom I had known at Venice in 1753. Although he was a man of low extraction he had a keen wit. At this time he was old and resting on his laurels; he had fought his way into favour by the sheer force of merit, and his master, the Duke of Modena, had long chosen him as his representative with other powers.
Abbe Testa Grossa recognized me and gave me the most gracious reception, but when he heard of what had befallen me he seemed much annoyed.
"What can I do?" said I.
"You had better go, as the man may put a much more grievous insult on you."
"I will do so, but could you oblige me by telling me the reason for such a high-handed action?"
"Come again this evening; I shall probably be able to satisfy you."
I called on the abbe again in the evening, for I felt anxious to learn in what way I had offended the lord borgello, to whom I thought I was quite unknown. The abbe satisfied me.
"The borgello," said he, "saw your name on the bill which he receives daily containing a list of the names of those who enter or leave the city. He remembered that you were daring enough to escape from The Leads, and as he does not at all approve of that sort of thing he resolved not to let the Modenese be contaminated by so egregious an example of the defiance of justice, however unjust it may be; and in short he has given you the order to leave the town."
"I am much obliged, but I really wonder how it is that while you were telling me this you did not blush to be a subject of the Duke of Modena's. What an unworthy action! How contrary is such a system of government to all the best interests of the state!"
"You are quite right, my dear sir, but I am afraid that as yet men's eyes are not open to what best serves their interests."
"That is doubtless due to the fact that so many men are unworthy."
"I will not contradict you."
"Farewell, M. Casanova."
Next morning, just as I was going to get into my carriage, a young man between twenty-five and thirty, tall and strong and broad shouldered, his eyes black and glittering, his eyebrows strongly arched, and his general air being that of a cut-throat, accosted me and begged me to step aside and hear what he had to say.
"If you like to stop at Parma for three days, and if you will promise to give me fifty sequins when I bring you the news that the borgello is dead, I promise to shoot him within the next twenty-four hours."
"Thanks. Such an animal as that should be allowed to die a natural death. Here's a crown to drink my health."
At the present time I feel very thankful that I acted as I did, but I confess that if I had felt sure that it was not a trap I should have promised the money. The fear of committing myself spared me this crime.
The next day I got to Parma, and I put up at the posting-house under the name of the Chevalier de Seingalt, which I still bear. When an honest man adopts a name which belongs to no one, no one has a right to contest his use of it; it becomes a man's duty to keep the name.